Orgasmic dysfunction is when a person has trouble reaching an orgasm despite sexual arousal and stimulation.
In this article, learn about the causes and symptoms of orgasmic dysfunction and how to treat it.
What is orgasmic dysfunction?
Orgasmic dysfunction is the medical term for difficulty reaching an orgasm despite sexual arousal and stimulation.
Orgasms are the intensely pleasurable feelings of release and involuntary pelvic floor contractions that occur at the height of sexual arousal. Orgasmic dysfunction is also known as anorgasmia.
There are several different types of orgasmic dysfunction, including:
- Primary orgasmic dysfunction, when a person has never had an orgasm.
- Secondary orgasmic dysfunction, when a person has had an orgasm but then has difficulty experiencing one.
- General orgasmic dysfunction, when a person cannot reach orgasm in any situation despite adequate arousal and stimulation.
- Situational orgasmic dysfunction, when a person cannot orgasm in certain situations or with certain kinds of stimulation. This type of orgasmic dysfunction is the most common.
Orgasmic dysfunction can affect both males and females but is more common in females. Researchers estimate that female orgasmic disorder, which is recurrent orgasmic dysfunction, may affect between 11 to 41 percent of women.
The North American Menopause Society report that 5 percent of all women have difficulty achieving orgasm.
Research from 2018 found that 18.4 percent of women could reach an orgasm through intercourse alone. However, the same study indicated another 36.6 percent of women needed clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm during intercourse.
In men, experts often categorize orgasmic dysfunction and delayed ejaculation together.
Available studies suggest that delayed ejaculation is very uncommon in men, with one 2010 overview noting that it was rarely prevalent in more than 3 percent of men, although other estimates have the figure between 5 and 10 percent.
Orgasmic dysfunction can affect the quality of people’s relationships, as well as a person’s self-esteem and mental health.
Orgasmic dysfunction is when someone has difficulty or the inability to reach an orgasm. For some people, reaching a climax can take longer than normal or be unsatisfying.
The way an orgasm feels or how long it takes to have an orgasm can vary widely. When someone has orgasmic dysfunction, climax can take a long time to reach, be unsatisfying, or be unattainable.
Scientists are not sure what causes orgasmic dysfunction, but believe the following factors may contribute to the problem:
- relationship issues
- certain medical conditions, such as diabetes
- a history of gynecological surgeries
- some medications, including antidepressants
- a history of sexual abuse
- religious and cultural beliefs about sex and sexuality
- low self-esteem
Also, women over 45 years of age are more likely to have trouble orgasming than women under this age. This may be due to menopause-related hormonal shifts and vaginal changes.
Men are more likely to have trouble orgasming following a radical prostatectomy. They are also more likely to experience delayed ejaculation as they get older, as the ejaculatory function tends to reduce with age.
Once someone experiences difficulty reaching an orgasm, they may experience increased stress in sexual situations. Stress and anxiety during sex can make it even more difficult to reach an orgasm.
Before diagnosing orgasmic dysfunction, a doctor will likely ask about a person’s symptoms and how long they have existed.
The doctor will also note any factors that could contribute to orgasmic dysfunction, such as underlying health conditions or the medications a person is taking.
A doctor may do a physical examination as well. In some cases, they may refer a person to a sexual medicine specialist or a gynecologist.
Treatment for orgasmic dysfunction varies, depending on the underlying cause. A doctor may recommend treating any other conditions or adjusting any medications that may contribute to sexual health problems.
In many cases, a doctor may recommend a person who has orgasmic dysfunction try sex therapy or couples counseling.
A certified sex therapist can offer psychotherapy that focuses on concerns related to sexual function, feelings, or dysfunctions. Sex therapy can be done on an individual basis or with a partner.
Couples counseling focuses on relationship issues that may be affecting an individual’s sexual function and their ability to orgasm.
In some cases, a doctor or therapist may suggest a person try other forms of sexual stimulation to reach orgasm, such as masturbation or increased clitoral stimulation during intercourse. For others, they may recommend over-the-counter oils and warming lotions.
Hormone therapy may be effective for some females, particularly if the inability to orgasm coincided with the start of menopause.
In these cases, a doctor may suggest the woman tries an estrogen cream, patch, or pill. The estrogen may alleviate some menopause symptoms and improve sexual response.
While situational orgasmic dysfunction is not uncommon, people should speak with their doctor if they have any concerns about their ability to orgasm.
Orgasmic dysfunction is the medical name for the inability to reach orgasm. Some people may experience orgasmic dysfunction when it takes too long to reach orgasm or when their orgasm does not feel satisfying.
Many factors can contribute to orgasmic dysfunction. To remedy orgasmic dysfunction, a person can speak to a doctor, a certified sex therapist, and other medical professionals to find the cause.
People can take steps to treat orgasmic dysfunction and improve their sexual health once they know the cause.
Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST
Written by Jenna Fletcher